BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL appears committed to getting a full 2020 season in, even if that means the league has to make some drastic changes in the “new normal” that comes amidst the coronavirus pandemic. One of those concessions is the likelihood that stadiums are empty when teams square off.
It’s hard to imagine football games being played without scores of screaming fans cheering on their respective team. A completely empty Gillette Stadium every Sunday just wouldn’t look right.
But could empty stadiums actually benefit the Patriots early in the 2020 schedule? It might. With visits to some extremely hostile stadiums early on the docket, it may not be so bad if Jarrett Stidham makes his first career starts without being hounded by two of the loudest fan bases, as ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss explained Sunday night on WBZ-TV’s Sports Final
“When I look at it the Patriots schedule and see Week 2 in Seattle and Week 4 in Kansas City, I almost look at it as the Patriots might be catching a break here. It will be different without fans at Gillette, but to go on the road in those environments, they have a couple of road games right at the start where fans are a huge factor,” Reiss told Steve Burton. “In Seattle, that is part of you game-planning. If there is a year the Pats have to play without fans in the stands, this might be one they pick to say ‘this would be a good year to do that.'”
With no fans in the stands, the Patriots wouldn’t have to worry about the loud 12s in Seattle or rowdy fans at Arrowhead in the first month of the season. That would certainly help a young QB navigating his way through his early days as an NFL starter.
Reiss also doesn’t believe teams will pump in crowd noise — at least in stadiums.
“I don’t think they’ll do that, partially because it’s against the rules when there are fans there. I think there would be some sort of crowd sense would be on the broadcasts, just to create a little of a dynamic presence of the broadcast,” said Reiss. “I don’t want to step too far out of my lane because I don’t know what goes into making a broadcast, but it would be more to enhance the viewer experience.”
While there is a whole lot that remains unknown about the upcoming NFL season, Reiss said the NFL will do everything it can to get in a full 16 game schedule.
“I think there is going to be a commitment to a full season as much as they can. There is flexibility with that Super Bowl date in Tampa. They have movement where they can push that back,” he said. “There are certain ways where they can piece the schedule together for a full 16 game season. Part of that is going t be if they can start soon enough; if they don’t start in September can they start in early October? There is only so much time, but I do think there will be a full commitment to get 16 games in.”